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Bronx Democratic Chief Quits, But Still Plans Political Role


January 30, 2002
Copyright © 2002
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

Roberto Ramirez, who has been chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party for the last seven years, announced yesterday that he would step down from that position effective Sunday. Mr. Ramirez, who is 51, said that he planned to start a political consulting firm, practice law and look for opportunities to teach at the college level.

In his seven years as head of the party, Mr. Ramirez became widely regarded as an influential and highly effective political strategist. He became known as a forceful manager of the Bronx organization who helped to establish strong victories for Democratic candidates in citywide and statewide races as well as local races within the Bronx.

He was also criticized by some Democrats as being an autocratic political boss who wanted to anoint candidates instead of allowing democracy to act as a natural selection process. While he had a number of high-profile feuds within the Bronx, and served a 40-day jail term last year for trespassing during protests of naval bombing exercises on Vieques in Puerto Rico, Mr. Ramirez, a former assemblyman, became perhaps best known for his role in last year's mayoral campaign.

He was the chief architect behind the campaign of Fernando Ferrer, then the Bronx borough president, who would have been the city's first Puerto Rican mayor. While Mr. Ferrer did not win the Democratic nomination, he managed to take the first- place position in the Democratic primary, forcing a runoff with Mark Green.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Ramirez made it clear that he intended to maintain an active role in politics in the city and the state. "I'm going to run campaigns," he said. "I intend to be involved in the governor's race, the comptroller's race this year. And we'll see what comes after that."

Many Bronx officials expect Mr. Ramirez to run for mayor one day, and the Democratic chairman indicated that he was considering running for public office again, although he said he had nothing specific in mind. "After a period of time, should there be an elective office that I feel compelled to consider, I might take that road," Mr. Ramirez said. "And I have asked people to consider supporting my candidacy."

Mr. Ramirez has long indicated his interest in stepping down as chairman of the Bronx Democratic organization, alluding to it when he left his seat in the Assembly two years ago. Nonetheless, yesterday's announcement seemed to take many Bronx Democratic officials by surprise.

The executive committee of the party will meet on Monday to select the new chairman. They are expected to elect Assemblyman José Rivera, who has been a political mentor to both Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Ferrer.

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